Talk:Fairey Swordfish

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The fact that it remained in service so long may be related to the failure of the Germans to complete the German aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin. It had no danger of encountering fighters, when far from land. The slow speed made it able to operate in worse weather, and therefor farther north than a monoplane could have. David R. Ingham 18:23, 31 July 2006 (UTC)

It was actually because the Swordfish was almost perfect for operating of the small Escort carriers, and could fly (as you state) in almost any weather, as well as being able to carry, bombs, torpedoes, rockets, mines, depth charges, etc., as well as ASV radar. The small size of the escort carrier is also why the Grumman Wildcat/Martlet was able to be useful long after it was obsolete, as it could also be operated of the smaller carriers. Had Germany launched the Graf Zeppelin then that would have had a similar implications for other allied carrier-based aircraft, such as the Martlet/Wildcat, Hellcat, Barracuda, Albacore, etc., not just the Swordfish. Against the Bf 109T that it was intended to equip the Graf Zeppelin with, they would all have had a pretty hard time, only the Seafire being a match for the Messerschmitt. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:02, 22 July 2010 (UTC)
A Wildcat would be more than a match for a Bf 109T (which was, after all, merely a navalized Bf 109E), let alone a Hellcat.-- (talk) 05:10, 3 February 2013 (UTC)


The article claims that radar was not introduced until 1943. One of the references for the article, , says that it was used by the a/c that hit the Bismarck. So, was that a prototype fitment? Greglocock 01:16, 22 February 2007 (UTC)

The article refers to "centimetric radar" invented in the autumn of 1942. This was an improved form and capable of detecting much smaller objects and not picked up by the existing German radar search receivers. In 1941 the FAA Swordfish certainly carried radar. (See references Kemp p. 277 & Kennedy p. 111 in main article)

Jpacobb (talk) 18:12, 5 September 2011 (UTC)jpacobb


It would be great to include information on where the crewmembers sat. Are they in a row? Is the pilot first? Also, under history it is not clear what "HMS Warspite spotted fall of shot" means. User:JHamiltonGreenHarbor May 2007

In then-contemporary Royal Navy terminology 'Spotting' (as in the 'Torpedo/Spotter/Reconnaissance' designation for the Swordfish) meant observing ('spotting') the impact points of a battleship's big guns and then radioing back corrections to the ship. In the days before the widespread introduction of radar it was easy enough to get azimuth (i.e., direction) of a target correct, but range was another matter. A battleship's guns might have a range of ten to fifteen miles or more, and gauging the correct elevation for the guns (i,e. the range to the target) from the ship itself was not possible over such distances. So, the 'spotter' aircraft was flown-off and would then position itself somewhere where it could see the shells impacting. The battleship would then fire its guns and the aircraft would radio back to the ship corrections such as 'Down 5 degrees', 'Up 2 degrees', etc., to zero-in the guns onto the target. When this had been achieved and the target was seen by the spotter to be being hit the message radioed back was 'On target' and the ship would then continue firing on the current bearing/elevation. In Army terminology the corresponding role was carried out by an 'Air Observation Post' (AOP) aircraft such as the Auster.
The term 'spotter' has the same meaning in the term trainspotter, meaning someone who takes an inordinate interest in seeing/observing something. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:30, 24 July 2011 (UTC)

Correction of stringbag nick name[edit]

The article makes out the swordfish's nickname came-by in comparison to the 1930's to 1960's stile of shopping bag the 'string-bag'.This is false, the nickname was applied to the swordfish due to the ground crews ability to repair the swordfish. The swordfish on most fleet air arm carriers where often said to be ' made out of bits of string and patch's. I intend to change this article on October the 14th 2007. If you wish to object to me edditing this article, please raise your objections by October 14th 2007. I thought it is only polite to give a fortnight's warning before changing any persons work. Bye TheJackle 23:41, 29 September 2007 (UTC)

Well actually it was I who added the current (correct) explanation several years ago although I didn't have a reference to-hand at the time, luckily someone else has read the relevant book and re-instated the text. I prefer to take Charles Lamb's word for it, as he was there at the time:
Lamb, Charles.War in a Stringbag. London: Cassell & Co., 2001. ISBN 0-304-35841-X.
As he said, it got its nickname because of what it could carry - like a housewife's 'string bag' —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:44, 22 July 2010 (UTC)
For whatever reason which perhaps only Their Lordships know, the Swordfish was comprehensively tested ('clearance trials') by the A&AEE at such places as Martlesham Heath and later Boscombe Down for safely carrying and dropping just about every FAA and naval air-droppable store that was then, or subsequently became available. That meant several Marks of 18" torpedo, numerous types and sizes of mine, bomb, rocket, depth charge, etc., and the notable thing about the Swordfish was that if you mentioned some obscure type of store, and enquired if it was cleared for the Swordfish, the answer was almost invariably 'yes'.
Hence; 'it could carry anything'.
BTW, the term 'clearance' means that the bomb or other weapon being dropped or fired 'clears' the aeroplane safely without causing damage to or posing a danger to the aircraft. New aircraft and new weapons are tested for this, hence 'clearance trials'. If an aeroplane has been tested with a particular weapon and has passed successfully the aircraft is said to be 'cleared' for that weapon and that weapon may be carried and used by it. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:05, 2 January 2014 (UTC)

May 1941[edit]

From article (see May 1941.) "(These two points are disputed and may be an urban myth.)" — Robert Greer (talk) 15:35, 26 March 2009 (UTC)

nightfly ability[edit]

In the article about the Taranto Raid it is stated that the Swordfish were able to perfom night missions. How was the RN to be able to do this not even the USN was capable nightraids during the whole Pacific Campaign.

see Mitschers risky attack in the Battle of the Phillipinean Sea.-- (talk) 23:10, 26 September 2009 (UTC)

All RN (FAA) and RAF pilots had full night flying training throughout the war, whereas IIRC, for the US, because of the haste with which the expanded flying training schools were organised after Pearl Harbour it was deemed unnecessary to train pilots, other than night fighter ones, for night flying. It took the RAF and FAA roughly as long again to train a pilot to fly at night as it did to train a pilot to fly in the first place, so it doubled the time taken to train a pilot. The US didn't regard this as being needed as their doctrine advocated daylight (VFR) operations almost exclusively and in 1941-42 they were in a desperate hurry to increase the number of pilots available. For the RAF and FAA however, their flying training organisation had been set up during the relatively quiet phase of the war and was based all over the British Commonwealth and USA, and so training could be carried out in a more measured fashion, and because of the longer 'lead-in' of pilots available to them they never needed to reduce training to daylight only.
The reason that all RAF pilots had full IFR (night flying) training was because a pilot from a day fighter squadron might later find himself being transferred to a bomber squadron (and vice-versa), and by 1941 most of RAF Bomber Command's operation were at night, so it was important that any pilot could be used in any role. This is also the reason that the USAAC/USAAF never really considered going over to night bombing when their losses became serious, as they would have needed to re-train their bomber pilots to fly at night, which would have taken considerable time and halted their bomber offensive completely. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:41, 22 July 2010 (UTC)

Impossible claim[edit]

"...torpedo release altitude of 18 ft (5.5 m).[1] Maximum range of the early Mark XII torpedo was 1,500 yd (1400 m).[2] The torpedo traveled 200 yd (180 m) forward from release to water impact, "

Thats physically impossible. If a torpedo is released 18 feet above the water, at any speed, it is not going to travel 600 feet ( 200 yd ) before it hits the water. Unless it is actually a cruise missile, which the torpedos the Swordfish was dropping, were not.Eregli bob (talk) 04:53, 20 May 2010 (UTC)

I agree it is impossible. If dropped from 18 feet, a torpedo would fall for under 1.2 seconds and travel horizontally about 227 feet if released at 121 knots. Kennedy gives the rules for release as speed 90 knots, height 90 feet, range 900 yards[1]

Jpacobb (talk) 18:28, 5 September 2011 (UTC)jpacobb

Bismark AA fire control[edit]

I've seen the claim made elsewhere in several sources that the Swordfish escaped the Bismark's anti-aircraft fire because they were flying slower than the ship's gun predictors could allow for. The claim seems to not make sense to me. But I'm not knowledgeable at all about the Bismark or Naval AA gunnery so I'm wary of sticking in a "dubious-discuss" in the article. I will however, set down here why I think its odd the Bismark found it difficult to engage slow flying aircraft.

  • Any aircraft making a torpedo attack must fly low and slow to ensure the torpedo enters the water cleanly (see above, 90 feet, 90 knots). Having a gun predictor with a minimum speed greater than this makes no sense.
  • The Bismark was designed in the mid-30's, during the biplane era, when the designers would surely think attack by slower, biplane aircraft as being likely.
  • Do you even need a gun predictor when an torpedo-carrying aircraft is flying directly towards you - a zero deflection shot is the term I think?

The trouble is, so few of the Bismark's crew survived to report on what the battle was like from their point of view. So unless somebody is willing to trawl the interrogation reports of the Bismark survivors, its easy for 'facts' to go unchallenged for decades. My personal suspicion was was that it was a newly commissioned ship, the gunners were still inexperienced and perhaps they just weren't very good (am I right in thinking the Swordfish attack was the Bismark's first ever engagement with hostile aircraft). However I'll happily stand corrected if there are reliable sources supporting the orthodox view of the attack.Catsmeat (talk) 10:57, 22 April 2015 (UTC)

The Swordfish was a very capable dive-bomber. FAA doctrine called for the Swordfish to make torpedo attacks using a steep diving approach to the target, level off for just a few seconds, drop the torpedo and turn sharply away. This meant that the aircraft was never "straight and level" long enough for medium calibre AA fire firecontrol to generate an accurate fire control solution. All WW2 AA computers could only make accurate predictions based upon targets moving in a straight line. It seems likely that this was the reason that none were shot down by Bismarck. However, it is difficult to find a reference for this.Damwiki1 (talk) 16:40, 22 April 2015 (UTC)

I was always under the impression that torpedo gunnery always required a certain length of run-in to the target on a straight and level course in order to accurately determine the speed and course of the ship, and the exact relative vectors of the aircraft and vessel before dropping the torpedo. Any attempt to simply "point and shoot" it is going to end in almost certain failure, since the minimum range of a torpedo before it arms itself is long enough that simply flying in the direction of the ship and letting in drop is so far away it's almost certainly going to miss. I think "a few seconds" is probably more like 10 seconds or so. On top of that, the version of the story that I'm familiar with is that the Swordfish made their run on the Bismarck at such a low level that most of the guns couldn't depress far enough to engage them, since they'd have to fire below 0deg to hit them. That suggests to me a dive at long range for the small caliber guns; the larger would have trouble engaging the targets. Then a short run in at very low level towards the target, maybe 8-10 seconds? During this time, as the range decreased, fewer and few guns could be brought to bear as the angle steepened. I do suspect that inexperienced gunners were a factor as well, though; they'd never been in combat before this. There is no substitute for actually shooting at a real airplane. In the US, where they had radio-controlled targets, when gunners were firing at targets, they were not supposed to actually HIT the target...too expensive! I imagine that the Bismarck had mostly done theoretical "dry-runs" with their AA before this, and so weren't entirely proficient. Add to that the fact that a ship's own AA is really more of a deterrent than an effective defense. A single ship cannot generate sufficient firepower to protect itself; it can prevent the enemy from taking their sweet time and blowing them up at leisure, but it can rarely shoot down more than a percentage of the attackers, even with highly proficient crews and massed guns, like the US Navy had later in the Pacific War. Only massed fleets with massed guns can put up a really adequate wall of AA fire, and even then it's no guarantee you'll stop every attacker. I think it is a combination of factors, along with some plain luck on the side of the British crewmen, that all of the Swordfish got away successfully. AnnaGoFast (talk) 00:47, 11 April 2016 (UTC)

Swordfish the best anti-shipping aircraft in terms of tonnage sunk[edit]

Ross Kemp, in "Raiders" page 6 (Random House, London, 2012 ISBN 9781780890555)says that the Swordfish "would account for sinking a greater tonnage of Axis shipping than any Allied aircraft of the war" I thought this should be included in the introductory section for this article if true. On Page 9, he says that the Swordfish was able to escape being shot down by Me 109's because it was so much more manoeuvrable, and could take an awful lot of damage (bullets would just go straight through the fabric-covered surfaces). In Norway, German fighters sometimes crashed into the steep rock faces of coastline while trying to shoot down Swordfish as they twisted and turned.Sitalkes (talk) 12:33, 5 May 2015 (UTC)

Sounds like your average over-dramatic book about a favored aircraft. I'd like to see some actual numbers, not just a general claim that "the Swordfish sunk the most"'s easy to say things like that by using dubious number selection processes. Not that it's not entirely possible, but I wouldn't like to just take some authors word for it. Than any Allied aircraft? That's hard to swallow. As for maneuverability, it could maneuver at lower speeds than the average fighter, but it was far from nimble, IIRC. A very stable aircraft, as a torpedo bomber should be, one that likes to fly in a straight line. It's certainly possible that there were instances of Axis fighters flying into the ground trying to attack Swordfish, but random anecdotes don't really prove anything...there were literally tens of thousands of aircraft lost during the war, in every conceivable way. There are stories about Kawanishi H6K's defending themselves by flying feet off the water; a fighter trying to attack was in great risk of flying into the water before he could pull out of a dive. It happened, but the fact that it happened doesn't really say anything about the aircraft was still horridly vulnerable, as was the Swordfish. The Swordfish may have escaped Bf 109's on occasion by simply flying slower than the Bf 109 could, but the author seems to be suggesting that the Swordfish was impossible to shoot down, because it was so nimble, and Bf 109's decided not to screw with such a scary customer anymore, which is just ridiculous. The fact that it could have been worse doesn't really help anything. The Swordfish was a great plane, but authors like this seem to over-state their case for the sake of dramatics. They always strike me as books written for fanboys, and less than factual in many ways. Or at least, they kind of "alter reality" in order to pay tribute. I've read quite a few myself. There are some good facts in them, but you've got to take them sith a grain of salt, and think "what is he really saying here". AnnaGoFast (talk) 00:58, 11 April 2016 (UTC)

I have to agree with Anna on this one - there was a lot of nonsense about the more vulnerable aircraft during the war - particularly about how much damage they could sustain and still return which was usually a sign a lot were not returning, but that couldn't be said at the time, or in the Swordfish's case, about being immune to interception from being too slow. Aircraft can readily destroy tanks and trucks and trains that are moving and even zig-zagging so that isn't very convincing.
Additionally, the tonnage sunk claim faces some serious competition from the Avenger. - NiD.29 (talk) 03:09, 11 April 2016 (UTC)
    • ^ Kennedy, Ludovic. Pursuit: The Sinking of the Bismarck p.161